Word&Way News Writer
“This has always been a place where we’ve talking about the presence of God,” Phil Briggs told those gathered at Windermere’s 50th Anniversary Celebration morning watch. “We need such oases.”
Around 500 Baptists gathered Sept. 19-20 to celebrate the anniversary of the Baptist camp and share memories.
When he was president of the RAs, John Swadley had the opportunity to speak at Windermere. “It influenced my ministry,” he told the crowd by video. “I remember Tickbite Trail...and I almost got to kiss a girl in the cave!”
Pam Reynolds shared the effect Windermere had on her daughter Linda. When Linda was 10, she met missionaries during a GA camp at Windermere. During a special service, the missionaries each put a log on a fire, signifying how sharing God’s love makes the world brighter.
The girls were given the opportunity to put their own logs on the fire. “It was so beautiful,” Reynolds recalls her daughter saying. “I want to be part of that.”
Years later, Linda told her mom that she felt called to be a missionary in Africa. “That ministry at GA camp started that little flame,” Reynolds said.
The two-day celebration featured music by Paul Harvey, the Houston Sisters, John Mathews Family, “Grandpa John” Gorham, Tom Gibbons Family, Bob Mabe and the Kitchen Band, and others.
On Saturday morning, displays were set up in the lower floor of the Earl O. Harding Auditorium, allowing people to review Windermere’s history and share their own memories.
Hayride tours showcased Windermere’s expansion over the past 50 years.
“God’s Spirit connects with people’s spirit and life is transformed,” Vernon Armitage, pastor of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, Liberty, said, describing what happens at Windermere. After a video showing a group baptism service, he said “That is what Windermere is all about.”
Jerry Cain, president of Judson University, was the featured speaker during the Saturday afternoon worship service. He referenced the book of Romans, stating that the first 15 chapters use scholarly language, but the 16th chapter is different, almost incorporating Ozark language. In this chapter, he said, Paul looks back and remembers those who were important to him.
“If I were to follow Paul and write from my ‘exile’ in Illinois, I would greet Bob Woolley, the first person to invite me to speak at Windermere,” he said. Among his list were Barbara Shock, Larry Thomas, Ken Ragsdale (“who could get music from a turnip”), the Hills, Pam Reynolds, Don Wideman, Marilyn Hall, Russell Newport (“who evidences that old age is inconvenient, but may not be terminal”), Alberta Gilpin, Barb and Bob Rainey and Mrs. Caldwell.
Ending the day, CEO Dan Bench shared that Windermere has been God’s special place. “The last five years have been wild and crazy,” he said. “How do we protect Windermere for the future? We need you to keep doing, keep coming, keep supporting us.”